Love: Tricia and Mark Walters on vacation in Austria last year. Tricia proposed to Mark on February 29, 2000. *Photo supplied
Love: Tricia and Mark Walters on vacation in Austria last year. Tricia proposed to Mark on February 29, 2000. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, FEB. 10: It is a tradition in folklore that women can only propose to men in a leap year.

Every four years February contains an extra day to keep the calendar year in sync with the astronomical one, because the Earth does not orbit around the Sun in precisely 365 days.

February 29 is referred to as leap day, and according to legend, is the only day every four years that women can pop the question.

In the 20th century of course, more women are proposing marriage all year-round, but to some a leap year still holds a romantic sway.

On February 29, 2000, Tricia Walters, of South Africa, proposed to her boyfriend, Mark, of Zimbabwe. Tricia, a 40-year-old artist, and Mark, a 49-year-old IT consultant, live in Pembroke. This is Tricia’s story.

On February 29, 2000, I proposed to my now husband Mark.

We met online in August 1999 while I was living in Cape Town, South Africa.

He was my ‘third time lucky’ date through the online service, and on the day I decided to remove my profile from it I received a message from him.

He had read a poem I had written and liked it. So, we got chatting and e-mailed each other for about a month before we met for coffee.

In February 2000, Mark was sent to Belgium for a month and I moved into his home in Cape Town to take care of the cats, and also to save money on rent, because I was a starving journalist.

We called each other every day to talk and on February 29, I phoned him and said: “Hey, marry me.”

He was very quiet on the phone for the longest time until I started laughing and said: “Don’t worry... I was just joking.”

He came back with: “Yes, but not right now.”

I was shocked because seriously, I was just joking.

It was a leap year and that was just the sort of thing you do on a leap year. Right?


Mark added that we would discuss it when he returned to South Africa a few weeks later.

I panicked because, to tell the truth I wasn’t even thinking about marriage yet.

We had just met and he hadn’t even met my parents at that point.

Anyway he returned from Belgium and asked me to leave South Africa and move to Europe with him. I said “Yes” without even thinking about it.

I knew I wanted to be with him and if it meant leaving my home and my family, then so be it.

You know what they say about ‘love at first sigh’, well it was like that for me.

When Mark walked into that coffee shop the first time we met, I fell madly in love with him. He made me laugh and put me at ease right away.

In May 2000 we moved to Europe, and on a dark and cold afternoon in November that year Mark went down on one knee on a muddy patch, beneath a huge oak tree in Kew Gardens in London.

He asked me if I still wanted to marry him.I said “Yes” and we got married about two weeks later at the registry office in Newham.

A year later, with family all around us, we renewed our vows in a church in the tiny village we had moved to. That was almost 12 years ago and the best part is we got married on Mark’s birthday — November 30 — so he would never forget our wedding anniversary.

And you know what. He never has. Even though we’ve been married 11 years, he still buys me flowers on each anniversary and refuses to celebrate his birthday, which is why I have to organize surprise parties from time to time.

We’ve had our challenges over the years including the dreadful news that we would never be able to have children.


But I believe our marriage has lasted and continues to grow stronger as the years go by, because we never argue.

We disagree from time to time but we are best friends, and friends never stay angry with each other for very long.

We also both have a passion for travel. Every year we travel to somewhere new and exotic, and we literally count the days down until we get another chance to hop on a plane or boat.

No matter how hard things get we know we will always land on our feet as long as we have each other.And we always have fun together.